KEY FACTS ABOUT MINDROLLING
School of Buddhism: Nyingmapa, including Dzogchen
Founded: originally built in the 10th century, expanded in the 17th century (1676)
Location: between Lhasa and Tsedang
Altitude: about 3,650 m
Mindrolling Monastery, also called Orgyen Mindrolling, is the largest Nyingmapa monastery in Central Tibet, one of the 6 main Nyingma monasteries. The complex is one of the most beautiful in Tibet. Upon approaching the complex, you see the tall white stupa on the West side of the complex dominating the landscape. The main chapel is built of brown stone with fine details.
Monks of Mindrolling Monastery perform Cham Dance on the 4th day of the 4th month, and on the 10th day of the 5th month according to Tibetan Lunar Calendar.
LOCATION OF MINDROLLING
Mindrolling Monastery is located above Mondrup Shang village, 8km to the South from Drachi valley off the Lhasa – Tsedang road. The location is about 40 km to the South from Lhasa airport and takes approximately 2 hours to drive there.
You can visit Mindrolling as a day trip from Lhasa. Another option is to combine it with visiting Tsedang and Samye on a 2-3 days tour.
Originally, a small monastery was built on the present-day location of Mindrolling in the 10th century. However, the history of the monastery as we know it starts later, in the 17th century and connected with the figure of Terdak Lingpa Gyurme Dorje (1646-1714). He was a profound scholar and expanded the monastery complex. Also, he became the first Throne holder of Mindrolling (Minling Trichen). Among his students was the Fifth Dalai Lama. Terdak Lingpa discovered religious texts comprising one of the foundations for the Nyingma tradition.
In the 18th century Mindrolling was damaged during the Mongolian invasion, but soon after that restored.
Most of the complex was again heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt later.
THE HEAD OF MINDROLLING
The lineage of Mindrolling is hereditary. Terdak Lingpa’s son and daughter worked together to rebuild the monastery after Mongol’s destruction. His son became the Second Throne holder of Mindrolling. Terdak Lingpa’s direct descendants were successful leaders of the monastery, and only once in the 19th century passed to descendant’s reincarnation.
The Present throne holder is Kunsang Wangyel, the twelfth Minling Trichen. He is the head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Nowadays, he resides in the Mindrolling branch monastery in Dehradun in India.
MINDROLLING MONASTERY COMPLEX
Mindrolling is the largest Nyingmapa monastery complex in Central Tibet, covering about 100,000 sq meters.
There are 4 hills surrounding the complex – Miyo Ri on the East, Danma on the North, Drepo on the West, and Gyaldan on the South.
Two gates lead to the monastery complex, on the South-East and North-East. Upon entering from the South-East main gate, you will see Tsuklakhang.
Tsuklakhang, the main building of the complex is facing East. It is the main chapel of the monastery with an Assembly hall on the ground floor. Upon entering the chapel you will see nice murals of the Four Guardian Kings, the Wheel of Life, and the inventory of items that you could originally see inside.
Inside, you can see some damaged original murals. The Assembly hall has statues of Vajradhara and Terdak Lingpa. There are entrances to 3 inner chapels from the Assembly Hall. The South chapel has a statue of Guru Rinpoche and Terdak Lingpa. The Northern inner chapel is a protector’s chapel with statues of many wrathful deities.
The inner chapel on the West has original murals and 4 meters high Shakyamubu Buddha statue accompanied by his two principal disciples and 8 Bodhisattvas. These statues are also original (although only Buddha’s head survived the Cultural Revolution and the body was later restored).
On the second floor of the building, you can see some old religious items, including Thangka with gold handprint and footprint of Terdak Lingpa, the founder of Mindrolling, and important Nyingma scriptures.
On the third floor, you can see impressive murals depicting Nyingmapa lineage.
Drubcho Sangak Podrang
Walking clockwise in the monastery complex next building is Drubcho Sangak Podrang facing North. Inside you can see some original murals. The most famous mural depicts Padma Sambhava. On the ground floor of the building, monks construct sand mandalas during the 4th month of the Tibetan calendar.
The next building is Namgyal Podrang facing East. After the Mongol destruction, it was restored in 1944 only to be damaged again in 1960.
Kumbum Tongdrol Chenmo
Kumbum is a beautiful large white stupa in the West of the complex. Terdak Lingpa built the original 13-storey stupa (chorten). Nowadays you can a reconstructed stupa after it was destroyed in the Cultural revolution. The renovated stupa was finished in 2000.
Inside the stupa, you will see 3 floors high statue of Maitreya (Future Buddha), with 7 smaller stupas on the sides. You can climb up to visit the upper floors with smaller chapels.
PLACES TO VISIT NEAR MINDROLLING
Yumbulakhang is the first fortress in Tibet, where the first Tibetan Kings executed control over Tibet. According to legends, the first Buddhist scriptures fell on the roof of Yumbulakhang.
During the reign of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Yumbulakhang became a Buddhist temple.
Nowadays, it attracts tourists because of its unusual for Tibet architecture and amazing view on the surrounding valley.
Samye is the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet built in the 8th century. The monastery complex resembles the shape of a mandala. The central temple – Utse has three floors each built in a distinct style.
Samye along with Mindrolling is another important monastery of the Nyingmapa order.
Dorje Drak and the nearby Mindrolling Monastery are the two mother monasteries of Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Originally, Dorje Drak was founded by the first Rigdzin (Godemchen) in Tsang.
Godemchen discovered a set of texts (terma) that became a foundation of the Buddhist teaching in Dorje Drak. At the time of the Third Rigdzin, Dorje Drak moved to its present day location at the Northern Bank of Brahmaputra (Yarlung Tsangpo) River.
There is a rock in a shape of a dorje (thunderbolt) that gave the name to the monastery complex.
6 DAYS TIBETAN CULTURAL HERITAGE TOUR
This private tour takes you from Lhasa to Yarlung Valley and Samye Monastery. Yarlung valley is the birthplace of Tibetan civilization. You can see Yumbulakhang, an ancient fort and the first surviving building in Tibet. After that, you will visit Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
10 DAYS MEDITATION TOUR
On this tour, you will experience Tibetan culture, visit incredible landmarks, and see the natural beauty of Tibet. At the same time, we will travel to the most peaceful and special places where the greatest Buddhist Lamas have been meditating for years.
We will spend time in the meditation caves, away from the busy world, make stops by the most impressive natural sightseeing spots, and, of course, visit the most important monastic centers, including Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
7 DAYS CRADLE OF TIBETAN CIVILIZATION TOUR
This tour will take you to the birthplace of Tibetan culture. From these places Tibetan civilization as we know it emerged. You will visit Lhasa first and explore Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden monastery. After that, we will drive to Yarlung valley. First, we will visit Tradruk Monastery and Yumbulakhang. After that, we will continue journey to Samye monastery.